Alumni Spotlight: Nancy Williams
October 06, 2021
LSU College of Agriculture Alumni!
Bachelor’s of Science in plant and soil systems with a concentration in horticultural sciences, 1990
President/CEO, No More Empty Pots
Nancy Williams has engaged in agriculture since elementary school. Her family raised most of the food they ate; at one time maintaining as many as six family gardens. In addition to achieving success with FFA competition teams, Nancy earned scholarships to study Horticulture. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Louisiana State University then completed coursework and research towards a Master of Science degree in Weed Science with a minor in Plant Pathology at Cornell University.
Nancy chose LSU because of the scholarship offers and what seemed to be genuine interest by the faculty and staff with whom she spoke to while in high school. Mr. VC Knighton, Vocational Agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor at Nancy's high school suggested that she consider going to college to study agriculture as a career option. He contacted people that he knew to arrange for phone calls and connections. LSU Horticulture was one of the returned calls and seemed like a good fit. The intention was to complete general education requirements on scholarship then change to a different major if it wasn't working out. Turns out that it was a great opportunity to learn, share, and grow as a student and a leader.
Nancy’s work experiences are diverse. From serving as an agronomist for local farmers and consultants in a Fortune 500 corporation to grassroots organizing and management for nonprofit community organizations, she has put her love of learning and achievement to work. Nancy served in an Information Technology leadership role for over 14 years with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands in Omaha. Most recently as Chief Information Officer, where she led award-winning programs, increased technology integration, and supported improved organizational outcomes.
In 2010 Nancy co-founded then later served as a board member at No More Empty Pots, a nonprofit supporting the development of local food systems through self-sufficiency of people and economic resilience of communities. Nancy began her role as CEO of No More Empty Pots in January 2016. The most ambitious project at No More Empty Pots is the Collaborative Community Centered Food Hub. The food hub is home to multiple programs designed to demonstrate a closed-loop efficient and effective people-centered food system that fights poverty through local food access, education, training, jobs, and entrepreneurship. The hub provides an opportunity to engage in each sector of the food system: production, processing, distribution, consumption, and recycling.
Nancy also currently serves on multiple local, state, and regional community development, sustainable agriculture and nonprofit boards and advisory committees.
With four adult children who are all college graduates and pursuing advanced degrees, Nancy spends a lot of time sharing her passion for good food, leadership, personal strengths, and exceptional outcomes with diverse audiences.
As the President and CEO of No More Empty Pots, Nancy has many responsibilities as the organization grows and matures. Nancy co-founded and leads NMEP, a community organization operating with social enterprise elements. She steers urban community agricultural initiatives and leverages rural collaborations. Nancy manages projects: gather requirements, guide staff, project contractors, and volunteers. She engages in fund development, donor stewardship develops and executes plans of work, write proposals, resolve issues, and is responsible for reporting financial and project outcomes. Nancy also develops collaborative partnerships with public, private, and grassroots organizations to improve project sustainability and community outcomes.
No More Empty Pots has had tremendous growth in the past few years. In 10 years, an annual budget that has grown 6,000% and staffing that has grown from independent contractors to 26 full-time and part-time staff. A recurring role within her organization and the community, Nancy guides and mentors young professionals sharing lessons learned along her journey to wholehearted living.
Favorite LSU Memory
I have a lot of LSU memories. With the picturesque campus, unforgettable people, and the best food in the world all around, it is hard to pick a favorite. Most of my memories revolve around food and people. I loved my student worker positions. It was where I sharpened my aptitude for technology. I loved engaging in the student organizations on campus with world-class musicians - I met Dizzy Gilespie after an on-campus performance and saw Alvin Ailey dancers perform for the first time. I was able to introduce my younger siblings to these experiences on campus. LSU made extraordinary excursions possible. I learned so much from the talented and brilliant faculty. And I was able to develop leadership skills in the horticulture club, 4-H, Les Voyageurs, and Sigma Alpha. There was always the best food at any of the spring semester events - crawfish boils, jambalaya, steaks, stuffed peppers from the cafeteria, etc. And the dairy store - always perfectly blended ice cream. I left the campus as a graduate 30 years ago! Walking through campus under the oak trees and remembering the vining bougainvillea takes on a different meaning whenever I get to return. I appreciate slowing down and being grateful for all of it.
What advice do you have for current and prospective LSU Agriculture students?
My advice would be to be present. Learn to trust yourself. Give yourself grace. Extend that grace to others. Be kind. Honor humanity. Think about it before you write or say it. Do the work. Know your stuff. Lead with your heart. Know your purpose; your why. You will need to lean on that 'why' a lot if you are doing something brave, courageous, and/or new. Sometimes everyday living is all of that. Do what you love and get really good at it. You are here for that reason. Other people are doing their own stuff. Do yours. Be honest with yourself and with others. Do all that you can then surrender. What you need next will show up. Surround yourself with people whose values (not ideas but values) align with yours. You will get more passion work done and feel fulfilled. And it is OK for you to change your mind as you learn and grow. That is part of the journey.